Dining Reviews

Sweet Truth

DINING GT1502Buttercup is gourmet cupcake heaven, Kelly’s ‘Kalifornia’ muffin has a little something extra

Surely, I’m not the only one who enjoys the luscious guilt that accompanies a visit to Buttercup Cakes & Farm House Frosting on Locust Street in downtown Santa Cruz. I know I’m not alone in staring longingly at the illegally beautiful line-up of mini-cupcakes ($2), as well as their buxom full-figured big sisters ($4). The frostings alone are poetry, involving such unexpected hints and aromas of Earl Grey tea, hibiscus, kumquat and ginger. Surely, this visually seductive little shop and its orally unprecedented wares are a magnet for sweet teeth, chocophiles and devotées of all things citrus. My particular fetish is the small but elegant line of gluten-free mini cupcakes—baby cakes, if you will. And my new favorite creation as of 1 p.m. last Thursday is the carrot ginger gluten-free creation, topped with a buttery frosting that’s studded with tiny gem-like shards of crystallized ginger. I was moaning so much as I exited the store—my mouth already full of cake and frosting—that a very helpful guy came over to see if I required CPR. I shook my head, and pointed to the remaining bits of the cupcake. He nodded. He got it. And he immediately went into Buttercup Cakes to find his own form of sin. Reward yourself for something—anything—with a bite of buttercup heaven. Visit farmhousefrosting.com for a full list of flavors and info about catering and large orders, or call 466-0373.

New Muffin in Town

That would be the delicious and nutritious Kalifornia Muffin (note the spelling, which gives away the “secret” ingredient, kale). For $2.50, one can sidle on over to Kelly’s on Ingalls and Swift Streets and procure a big fat Kalifornia muffin—traditionally loaded with yum-inducing items such as raisins, nuts, orange, and pineapple, similar to other fibery treats. But the addition of a micro-zest of green kale subtly alters the flavor of the popular muffin, in a hint-of-savory way. I prefer it to the traditional California muffin, and the lovely tweed effect of the shavings of emerald kale is pleasing to the eye. Eat one of these and feel superior all day long.

Forage This

What a great idea: designing an adventurous dinner around the winter foraging brilliance of rare produce expert Freddy Menge! And that’s just what Soifchef Mark Denham and company will do in time for a Forager’s Dinner on Sunday, Jan. 18 (my birthday) at 6 p.m. What can you expect? Well, in addition to many items that must, of necessity, remain secret until the very last minute, Menge—who co-owns Epicenter Nursery, which specializes in rare and exotic avocados—is an expert at sourcing out specialty mushrooms, wild greens and berries, roots, weeds, leaves, and other ancient elements of soothing and provocative wintry dishes. Here is a man who knows his way around off-world patches of miner’s lettuce, who can locate an Elysian field of black trumpets and matsutakes with his eyes closed. In short, if it’s wild and edible, Menge will be seeking it out for a dinner destined to be the stuff of local gourmet legend. Be advised that the menu for the upcoming foraging menu will not be entirely vegetarian (which is good news for those of us who have become addicted to Denham’s pork belly motets.) The price for the Forager’s Dinner is $75 per person, and this price includes wine pairings. Yes, you heard that right. Wine and wild food for $75! (You will of course provide tax and tip as appropriate.) Stop reading right now and reach for your iPhone. Punch in Soif’s number—423-2020—and make your reservation. None dare call themselves adventurous who miss out on this primal food odyssey.

PHOTO: A sampling of Buttercup’s eclectic flavors—hibiscus flower, mocha on bittersweet vegan cake, chocolate peanut butter, red velvet and more. CHIP SCHEUER

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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